- Family: Daisy Family – Compositae, subfamily Asteroideae
(formerly Aster Family – Asteraceae)
- Growing form: Perennial herb.
- Height: 30–60 cm (12–24 in.). Stem almost glabrous. With subterraneous runners.
- Flower: Flowers form 3–9 cm (1.2–3.6 in.) wide, single flower-like capitula surrounded by involucral bracts. Capitulum flowers yellow, ray-florets tongue-like, disk florets tubular, small. Stamens 5. Gynoecium composed of 2 fused carpels. Involucral bracts 1 row. Capitula solitary, terminating the stem.
- Leaves: Alternate, basal leaves long-stalked, stem leaves 3–4, short-stalked–stalkless. Blade ovate, cordate based, basal indentation shallow, margin irregularly toothed.
- Fruit: Shallowly grooved achene with unbranched hairs on tip.
- Habitat: Ornamental, sometimes left over from old gardens.
- Flowering time: May.
Doronicum plants are native to Asian and European mountain areas, where they have been traditionally used medicinally. They have only been developed as ornamental plants in the last century, but its species have found a place in the heart of the Finnish garden and flower bed in a relatively short space of time. Leopard’s bane is an early bloomer and it is impossible to miss its stunning yellow capitula on the bare ground that follows winter. As spring comes earlier the plant seems to flower in Finland closer to the beginning of May. Many spring bloomers die away by the beginning of summer, but leopard’s bane leaves stay green until autumn.
Leopard’s bane’s early flowering time is useful for many insects that eat nectar, as there is not much to choose from at that time of year. The flower attracts e.g. butterflies, flies and beetles. Leopard’s bane’s favoured habitat is semi-shaded rich soil. In suitable flower beds it spreads slowly through its root runners, and can even escape to the wild. Leopard’s bane is often thought to be a daisy species with totally yellow flowers like corn marigold (Glebenius segetum) or yellow chamomille (Anthemis tinctoria), but a look at leaves tells that it is not so.
Heart-leaved Leopard’s Bane
Leopard’s bane also closely resembles other species in its genus that are quite commonly cultivated, e.g. heart-leaved leopard’s bane, although it lacks leopard’s bane’s style of subterraneous runners. It also blooms a little later. Heart-leaved leopard’s bane’s leaves are regularly sparsely-toothed, while leopard’s bane has irregular toothed margins. Also plantain leopard’s bane (D. plantagineum) and giant leopard’s bane (name also great leopard’s-bane, D. pardalianches) are look-likes. In Finland they are not very common in the wilds outside gardens.